Three out of four Cork Covid-19 assessment hubs remain unused since outbreak

Three out of four Cork Covid-19 assessment hubs remain unused since outbreak
The Community Assessment Hub at St Mary’s Health Campus which has been in use. Picture:Philip Daly

THREE purpose-built HSE Covid-19 community assessment hubs, designed to help ease pressure on hospital Intensive Care Units, remain unused in Cork City and County due to low Covid-19 patient numbers.

Four community assessment hubs for Cork, in St Mary’s Health Campus in Gurranabraher, Ballincollig, Mallow and Bantry, were constructed and equipped in a matter of weeks by the HSE’s Cork Kerry Community Healthcare Organisation.

More than 120 healthcare staff, including nurses, volunteering GPs and administrative staff, were trained to man hubs in the Cork-Kerry region.

The community assessment hubs were built to prevent Covid-positive patients with milder symptoms from overwhelming hospital ICUs in the advent of patient numbers becoming unmanageable.

They are part of a network of 39 facilities nationwide, planned to open in phases as patient numbers demanded. 

St Mary’s was opened under phase one, while the remainder of the Cork-Kerry hubs were designated as phase two. A Kerry hub in Castleisland has also remained unused.

GPs would refer Covid-positive patients to the hubs for in-person assessment and recommendations for treatment and self-isolation, or a referral to hospital if their condition worsened.

The HSE Covid-19 testing centre at St Mary's Health Campus.Picture: Eddie O'Hare
The HSE Covid-19 testing centre at St Mary's Health Campus.Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Initial plans included staffing the hubs seven days a week from 8.30am to 7.30pm.

Four positive test results for Covid-19 have been announced by the HSE in Co Cork since June 5. 

The county has now had a cumulative total of 1,533 positive test results for the disease. The HSE reports just over 40 deaths with Covid-19 in Cork City and county to date.

While hubs in Mallow, Bantry, and St Mary’s were modified units in existing HSE facilities, the Ballincollig Community Assessment Hub was purpose-built, according to public health nursing manager Martina Corcoran, who was involved in setting up the facility.

“The hub in Ballincollig was built from scratch, an amazing feat of workmanship from the builders, maintenance and all the disciplines in the HSE,” she said.

“Thankfully, we didn’t have the numbers when it came down to the time to open it. There was one centre opened in the Cork area and we didn’t have a need for a second hub.

“If the numbers would have reached that of other countries, we would have been looking at caring for Covid patients in the community and managing symptoms at a local level to take the burden off the acute services.”

Ms Corcoran said the assessment hubs were an important part of the county’s preparations for a worst-case scenario.

The facilities are currently still on standby in case of a second wave of the virus.

In a statement, the HSE said: “Thankfully due to the very successful impact of the efforts to ‘flatten the curve’, resulting in a low level of community transmission of Covid-19, there has not been a requirement to open all the hubs.”

“All health services are now making tentative steps to restore levels of priority services and an analysis of the activity at the open hub at St Mary’s in Cork would indicate that there is currently not a need for an extension of this service. However, this is kept under regular review.”

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